The ADHD-Sleep Connection

A recent study, presented at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting, shows that teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from more nightly sleep. This finding got me thinking about the young children I work with, and whether a suspected or early diagnosis of ADHD might be premature. Let me explain.

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There’s a Science Behind Set Bedtimes

If you’ve glanced at headlines or spent any amount of time on social media in the last month or so, you likely saw flashy headlines proclaiming that children lacking a set bedtime suffer physical effects similar to jet lag. The adolescent sleep study’s findings are valid, but it’s actually old news (it’s from a 2013 study). Alarmism is fashionable today with the 24-7 news cycle, so I wanted to address the study in today’s blog…in much more gentler terms.

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Please Don’t Throw Out Your White Noise Machine

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m an advocate for white noise in the nursery (and kiddo bedrooms). Whether you have a busy household, noisy neighbors, or just a little one who startles or stimulates easily while sleeping, white noise can be the answer. While you may have read some of the negative press surrounding noise machines, I implore you — please don’t throw out your noise machine!

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Solids and Baby Sleep: Will It Make My Baby Sleep Longer?

If you’ve ever shared your woes about your baby’s sleepless nights, you’ve likely been given a lot of unsolicited advice; and if you haven’t, you’re one of the lucky ones! If you’ve ever been told to put cereal in your little one’s bedtime bottle to make them sleep longer, this blog’s for you. Today I’m tackling the myth of solids and baby sleep.

Solids Baby Sleep
Stock Image by tung256 on Pixabay
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5-Year Check-In with a Former Client

Today I’m changing things up and sharing a guest post from a former client of mine. Five years ago, Lauren called for help with her 8-month-old son, Declan. Declan wasn’t napping and was sleeping in clips of two to three hours at night, max. As a result, Lauren was deliriously tired and extremely emotional when she called for help. Now, five years later, Lauren shares how Declan is sleeping as he prepares to enter first grade.

Dragon and a baby
Having some bedtime fun!

Years ago I wrote a one-year follow-up for Jennifer, and now I’m here to check-in at the five-year mark. The short answer is that all’s quiet on the home front and, having just turned six, Declan sleeps between ten and eleven hours a night. However, we still have to follow a bedtime routine to keep him on a schedule, and he’s unable to participate in some activities because of his early bedtime (he’s asleep by 7 p.m.). We’re used to this now, and I don’t think Declan’s life is suffering as a result (there are many more years of opportunity ahead).

Some things have become more evident with time, especially regarding the high level of alertness and difficulty we had with Declan sleeping as an infant. At the end of his kindergarten school year, Declan was evaluated and deemed to be highly gifted as a result of testing. Sleep issues are a commonality among gifted children — and adults — which explains some of the trouble we had early on. This study gives a brief overview of the incidence of sleep issues in the gifted population if you’re interested in reading more about the topic. We joked early on that Declan’s sleep issues were due to FOMO and his desire to take in every detail of the world around him — we weren’t far off. Once Declan got older, we integrated what I call a “brain dump” as part of his regular bedtime routine. After reading a book, we’d take a few minutes to talk about the day — or anything pressing on his mind — so that he wouldn’t lay awake processing instead of going to sleep.

The positive side of this is that while it’s common for gifted children to have issues sleeping, it’s not impossible for them to develop routines that help them get the sleep they so desperately need. In all, it took about a week of following Jennifer’s instructions to get Declan sleeping through the night and napping like a champ throughout the day — it is possible (and Declan never “cried it out” in the process). I’ve checked back with Jennifer throughout the years to consult with her about stumbling blocks, and each time it was because we needed to change what we were doing, whether it was removing all naps, transitioning Declan to a bed, or pushing bedtime back to a later time.

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Declan and myself sharing some downtime.

I won’t say that Declan’s sleep is without issues today — that would be a lie. He’ll still try to weasel his way out of going to bed at least once or twice a week, and he’s out of sorts if vacation or other activities push his bedtime back. And then you have those times when Declan falls asleep on the bus ride home, making it a struggle to get him down that night, or those nights when he’s sick and materializes at our bedside in the middle of the night (so scary!). If we’re traveling late at night, we can usually tell when Declan’s fighting sleep because he starts talking a mile-a-minute. If we don’t engage him, we’ll be met with silence and then snores within minutes. Some days, especially those marked with a lot of physical activity or summertime swimming, Declan will admit to being tired (!) and express a desire to go to bed earlier. However, this rarely happens, but when it does, we know he must be exhausted, and we jump into action to get him ready for bed.

My only regret about contacting Jennifer those 5+ years ago is that I didn’t do it sooner. If you’re on the fence about hiring Jennifer to work with your family, let me reassure you that she’ll be with you along the way and will provide suggestions based upon your family’s needs and comfort level. Don’t go as long as we did; healthy sleep is so important for early childhood development, so get your little one on track as soon as possible!

THANKS LAUREN!

Eight Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

Eight Tips For Easing Separation Anxiety

Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well.  One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around.

The thought process, it would appear is one of…

  • Mommy’s not in the
  • Therefore, Mommy is somewhere
  • I would prefer to be there with
  • Make that happen, or mark my words, I shall raise the most unimaginable of And those ruckuses leave us, as parents, to wonder, “Am I doing something wrong?

After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Beth from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her sitter, even overnight. And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”

About Separation Anxiety: Two things to keep in mind.

First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always conveyed through the rosiest of lenses.

And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child.

So what is it, exactly?

Separation anxiety typically starts to occur around 6-8 months of age, when your little one starts to realize that things continue to exist, even when they’re not in sight. It’s a cognitive milestone known as “object permanence” which is defined as, “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.”

In other words, out of sight no longer means out of mind.

So as your baby begins to grasp this concept, they realize that if you, their favorite person in the whole world, are not there, you’re elsewhere. And, hey, wait a minute. If that’s the case, then you might not be coming back.

It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it, but it’s also a little heartbreaking. This realization, for a baby, is obviously cause for full-blown panic. The thought of a parent leaving and not returning causes anxiety in most grown-ups I know, so you can hardly expect an infant to take it with great decorum.

Anyways, that’s what happens in your little one’s brain when they suddenly start having a fit every time you leave the room. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s a sign that your little one is learning, and that they have a secure attachment to their parent. Awesome.

But, as many of us know, it also means that leaving them with a sitter or dropping them off at day care can be an absolute horror show.

But what we really want to know, or at least what I really wanted to know when it happened with my children, isn’t “What’s causing this?” What I wanted to know was, “How do I prevent it?”

Well, the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to if you could. I mean, really, wouldn’t you be just a little devastated if you left your child with a stranger and they were just completely OK with it? “Bye Mom! See you at dinner!

Don’t worry about me. You guys have fun!”

I’m guessing that would actually be significantly more troubling than some tears and howling.

But we obviously want to keep things at a happy medium, and if you’re struggling with a child who’s pitching an absolute fit every time you try to run an errand or head out for date night, I’ve got some suggestions to take the edge off until this phase runs its course.

1.    Lead by Example

Your little one follows your cues, so if you’re not willing to let her out of your sight, they probably, albeit un- consciously, feel like they’re not safe if you’re not in the room. So designate a room where they can explore a little and play without your direct supervision. It’s a small adjustment, but it has a tremendous effect.

2.    Don’t Avoid It

Learning about separation and reunion is an important milestone, so don’t just take the path of least resistance and stay with your child 24/7 until they’re seven years old. (It happens. Believe me.) Let them know that it’s okay for them to get upset when you leave and reassure them that you’ll always come back when you do. If there are some tears around it, that’s alright. This is an important concept that they need to get on board with.

3.    Start Slow

Once your little one has started to demonstrate the understanding that they’ll be spending some time with someone besides a parent, make it a short outing. Don’t plan on dinner and a movie or an overnighter for the first few attempts.

4.    Start With Someone Familiar

Kids typically do a little better being left with a grandparent or family friend who they’ve already spent some time with, and who they’ve grown to trust a little, so call in a favor, put some wine in the fridge, and plan to spend at least an hour away from the house for the first few attempts.

5.    Stick Around for a While

After your sitter, parent, friend, or whoever is watching your little one arrives, plan to hang around for a half hour or so. Seeing that this is someone you’re familiar with will go a long way in reassuring your child that they’re “good people” and worthy of their trust.

6.    Face the Music

Many of us have, at least once, attempted to distract our toddlers and then sneak out the door without saying goodbye. After all, it’s the goodbye that provokes the reaction, right? But even if it provokes some tears, it’s important for your child to understand that you’re going to leave sometimes, and that you’ll be back when you say you will.

7.    Establish a Routine

Much like bedtime, a solid, predictable goodbye routine helps your little one recognize and accept the situation. A set number of kisses and hugs, a memorable key phrase, and a clear indication of when you’ll be back should be just the right balance of short and reassuring.

8.    Speak in Terms They’ll Understand

Instead of telling them how long you’ll be gone, tell them when you’ll be back in regards to their schedule. After nap time, before bed, after dinner, before bath time, and so on.

Nothing is going to prevent your child from getting a little bit upset when you leave, (And as I said before, thank the stars for that, because if they didn’t, oh your poor heart,) but you can definitely keep the fuss to a minimum.

Now, I should add here that these techniques are suggested for kids who are dealing with ordinary, everyday separation anxiety. There is also a condition called Separation Anxiety Disorder which is obviously more serious and warrants a trip to your pediatrician if you suspect your little one might be afflicted with it.

But for run-of-the-mill fit-pitching when you try to leave the house for an hour or two, these tips should go a long way towards remedying the problem. Be consistent, supportive, assertive, and calm. Before long, your child will understand the concept of you leaving and coming back.

In fact, this concept that will also come in handy when you start to leave them alone in high school.

“I’m leaving for the night, but rest assured, I’m coming back. So you just remember that before you invite your rowdy friends over.”

But until then, if you feel like your little one’s separation anxiety has led to some not so great sleep habits…I’m here to help.  A FREE Sleep Assessment call is just a click away.  SCHEDULE A CALL WITH JENNIFER

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Vote one of the Top 200 Sleep Consultants in the US

8 New Year, New Mom Resolutions

This one goes out to all of the new moms out there — you know who you are. You may feel like you’re in the trenches, and you are, but the new year is the perfect time to claw your way out. In case you don’t have the time to come up with any resolutions, or a lack of sleep has completely zapped your brain power, I’ve come up with some suggested resolutions that all new moms can adopt.

new mom resolution

1. Burn nursing bra

Yep, when was the last time you wore a regular bra? If you’ve paused for more than two seconds to ponder that question, then it’s time to light the nursing bra bonfire. Besides, those things do absolutely nothing to support the girls, so you’re doing them a favor.

2. Stop wearing maternity clothes

Yes, I know how comfortable they are, but how long are you going to wear panel pants after your baby has left the womb? If you want to have an accurate gauge of where your body is post-baby, the best thing for you to do is to go back to regular clothing.

3. Be kinder to body

Look, gravity may have made your belly look like a sad pancake once the baby came out, but know it won’t stay this way forever. Also remind yourself that, unless your body plays an integral part in your livelihood, it’s okay to not be back to your pre-baby body two weeks after giving birth. Remember that your body just did the most amazing thing ever — it grew a HUMAN — and it expanded over the course of nine months. Give it time and be kind to yourself.

4. Make Target run at least once a week

If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you need to be able to step away to preserve your sanity…even if it’s for a 30-minute or hour long trip to Target. I know a mom who used to head to Target once a week, after her husband got home, just to window shop and walk the aisles. And while that hour was liberating for her, and necessary to clear her head [and feel like a human again], she still felt guilty about feeling overwhelmed and needing a break. What’s your Target?

5. Ditch the guilt

Going to the gym, stepping away to take a shower, returning to work, allowing a friend or family member to a.) watch the baby while you sleep, b.) prepare or bring over a healthy, home cooked meal, or c.) both of the above — whatever it is that’s making you feel guilty, you need to get rid of it. Seriously. Not a single person on this planet is perfect, especially a new mom running on a handful of hours of sleep. In fact, enjoy the fact that you can be a space cadet and step away from your mom-duties for a moment now, because it’s all over once your baby learns to talk.

6. Devise sock system

The key to avoiding disappearing socks is to create a system early. It can be as simple as doing baby laundry in a separate load, or, taking that one step further and buying a dedicated lingerie back, just for baby socks. Whatever it is, get on it before the socks begin disappearing (and they disappear fast!).

7. Cut caffeine intake

I know, this sounds a little like a Bridget Jones Diary entry, but really, try to cut your caffeine intake. Make it a point to replace half of your daily coffee/tea/soda intake with water — your body will thank you.

8. Call a sleep consultant

If your baby just isn’t sleeping, causing the rest of the family to lose sleep, it’s time to call for backup. It can be difficult to ask for help sometimes, but this is not something you want to put off, especially if everyone can start getting more sleep.

Call me today for a complimentary 15-minute phone consult, to see if your family can benefit by working with me.

My Favorite Things: A Sleep Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of gift guides, and I don’t want to disappoint, so I’ve rounded-up a few of my favorite things to create a sleep gift guide just for you! If you’re a client of mine, a few of these items won’t be new to you, as I recommend all of these things to my clients and friends with little ones struggling with healthy sleep.

Here are product recommendations I give to clients, to help create a healthy sleep environment for their babies, in one convenient sleep gift guide.

In this sleep gift guide, you’ll find snuggly things, comforting things, and things that promote health and sleep. I work with all of my clients to create the perfect sleep environment for their little ones, so it’s only natural that I would include items that help create the perfect setting for sleep! Without further adieu, here are six of my favorite sleep things!

Homedics-soundspa

1. HoMedics SoundSpa

Whether you have a busy, noisy household or not, a white noise machine can be a godsend, and HoMedics SoundSpa is my pick. Not only does it help mute outside noise with ambient sound, it means you no longer have to run a fan, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer to help your little one sleep (and yes, I’ve had clients use all of these things, and more, to try to create ambient, soothing sound in the nursery).

If you’re familiar with Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby method for baby sleep and soothing (which you likely are because you’re here), then you know that one of the 5 “S”s is shushing to soothe your baby (and swaddling another – you can read my thoughts on swaddles HERE). Think of the HoMedics SoundSpa as a shushing machine…that never runs out of breath — it really does work!

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2. Hushh for Baby

On the go? Don’t want to pack your sound machine, or don’t have the space to pack it? Hushh for Baby is a portable white noise machine, compact, and outfitted with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, able to be charged by the included micro-USB cord. Hushh for Baby also comes with a handy clip, so you can clip it to a stroller while out and about!

bitta-kidda

3. Bitta Kidda Sleep Sack

I am a strong proponent of sleep sacks, and the Bitta Kidda Sleep Sack combines two of my favorite sleep items: a sleep sack and a lovey. If you’re not familiar with the term “lovey”, you’ll know it as a comfort object. Remember Linus’ blankie? A lovey is an object babies (and small children) use to self-soothe at night. Bitta Kidda has attached two lovies to their sleep sack, neither of which will cover your baby’s face, making it a safer lovey option.

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4. Lovey

Notice that a ‘lovey’ is the closest I’ll come to recommending crib toys. I know toys are cute, and perhaps you think they’ll engage your baby so that she will spend more time in the crib, but crib toys are dangerous and unnecessary.

Aden + Anais make security blankets I like to recommend: the Silky Soft Musy Mate and the Classic Issie security blanket.

honeywell

5. Honeywell Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier

With a built-in UV sanitizing bulb and filter, the Honeywell Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier ensures that only the cleanest moist air is being filtered into your room. Humidifiers help ease breathing, and help avoid sickness from the drying effects of the heat during the winter months.

Notice I’ve made no mention of a baby monitor, in recommending items to add to your nursery. That’s because I want parents to be able to sleep, too, and baby monitors are not conducive to sleep, when you’re wakened throughout the night by your baby’s sighs, coos and occasional cries. If you’re already attached to your monitor, take a look at these tips to liberate yourself from baby monitor purgatory.

But what about older children, you ask? Not to worry, I’ve got something for them, too!

ok-to-wake

6. OK to Wake! Alarm Clock and Night Light

The OK to Wake! clock is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-age children. If your toddler is popping out of bed super early, you can use the OK to Wake! option on the clock. Setting the hour you wish your toddler to wake (or stay in bed until), the clock glows green when it’s okay for him to get out of bed. OK to Wake! also features a digital display, so your child can read the time. Additional options include a night light feature (glowing yellow instead of green, so as not to confuse your little one) and alarm clock. All-in-all, the OK to Wake! clock is the perfect item for teaching sleep responsibility to your little ones.

Now I want to hear from all of the parents out there — what sleep items do YOU recommend for adults?

 

 

The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

Did you know that sleep is closely tied to your mental health? New mothers, especially, are at risk of developing postpartum depression, with sleep deprivation being one of the many contributing factors. I’m a testament to this fact, having battled postpartum depression myself. In fact, my own experiences are what led me to become a sleep consultant – driven by the desire to help other struggling families.

According to Harvard Medical School, 10% to 15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Not even husbands are immune, as Harvard reports that as many as 10% of new fathers develop PPD within the first year after their child’s birth.

The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

The Atlantic featured a brilliant article, explaining how postpartum depression, or early parenthood depression, can affect even adoptive parents. A curious thing, right? Hormones are only a small contributor of postpartum depression, as sleep deprivation has the ability to cause a slew of emotional problems, including feelings of stress and anxiety.

My own experience with PPD began subtly; I wasn’t necessarily sad and weepy, instead, I was constantly overwhelmed. Honestly, I was just trying to keep my head above water in a completely sleep deprived state. Each day my anxiety grew and I was finding it harder and harder to keep a smile on my face and pretend to be the super awesome mother that I thought I should be. I was exhausted, anxious and downright miserable.

It’s no coincidence that my PPD was paired with sleep deprivation — 3 a.m. was an incredibly depressing and lonely time for me. It’s a vicious cycle, as this article from WomensMentalHealth.org explains:

While the fact that new mothers are often sleep-deprived will surprise few, the concern is poor sleep is considered to be a risk factor for depression, and depression may in turn contribute to or exacerbate sleep disturbance.  Several studies indicate that postpartum women with depressive symptoms experience poorer sleep quality, less total sleep time, longer sleep latency (longer time to fall asleep), less time in REM sleep, and more sleep disturbance than women without depressive symptoms.

Given the data, it’s clear that new parents need sleep to avoid negative affects on their mental health. I’ve been there, and I’ve made it my mission to help other families struggling to find a balance between caring for their babies and ensuring that the entire family is getting a healthy amount of sleep. It’s never too early to start, as there are things you can do help your newborn sleep longer, tips to avoid common baby sleep pitfalls, as well as inadvertent ways you might be hindering healthy sleep.

If you suspect you might be suffering from postpartum depression, please call your doctor immediately. If you are having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, do not keep them to yourself. Once you’ve gotten treatment, I’ll be here to work with you and your baby’s sleep issues.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Readers should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Gift of Sleep Consulting does not assume any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

Snoring in Young Children

The soft cadence of heavy breathing, that ear-splitting roof-shingle-flapping sound, even the whistle and twitter of cartoon characters; at some point you’ve been exposed to snoring. Maybe even YOU snore. Snoring is a pretty common occurrence, and not typically something to worry about. But, what if the snorer in your house is your child? Let’s talk a little more about snoring in young children.

Snoring in young children is normal, but can also be an indicator of a more serious problem like sleep apnea.

IS SNORING NORMAL IN YOUNG CHILDREN?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “many if not most children snore on occasion, and about 10 percent or more snore on most nights,” and “children who are three years or older tend to snore during the deeper stages of sleep.” Snoring in young children can be caused by anything from a cold or allergies, to a more serious condition such as sleep apnea.

While snoring can be more common in children ages three and up, the National Sleep Foundation states that “loud and regular nightly snoring is often abnormal in otherwise healthy children.” If a cold, allergies or respiratory infection are not to blame, snoring in young children might be caused by sleep apnea.

WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?

When we sleep, the muscles in our body relax; when the muscles in the throat relax to the point of airway obstructions and reduced air flow, sleep apnea is typically the culprit. The National Sleep Foundation states that “one to three percent of children not only snore, but also suffer from breathing problems during their sleep.” Breathing problems can be characterized by “gasping or snorting, waking up and starting to breathe again.” This pause in breathing can be disconcerting to parents, and make for restless nights for both parent and child.

Sleep for Kids lists the contributing factors to sleep apnea as “obesity, allergies, asthma, GERD (gastroenterological reflux disorder), an abnormality in the physical structure of the face or jaw as well as medical and neurological conditions.” If sleep apnea is to blame, your child can be exhausted and cranky from waking throughout the night. Over time, these sleep issues can create problems with mental focus, possibly leading to learning difficulties. According to Sleep for Kids,

Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea may contribute to daytime sleepiness and behavioral problems including difficulties at school. In one recent study presented at the American College of Chest Physicians, children who snored loudly were twice as likely to have learning problems. Following a night of poor sleep, children are also more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention…Apnea may also be associated with delayed growth and cardiovascular problems.

If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from sleep apnea, consult your physician. Sleep apnea can be treated; the form of treatment will depend upon the cause of your child’s apnea, but can include the removal of your child’s tonsils (tonsillectomy) or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy (CPAP), involving a machine that increases the air pressure in your child’s throat (to prevent it from restricting or collapsing) by using a mask with forced air.

If your child snores regularly, remember that it isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. If you believe snoring is affecting your child’s sleep, consult your physician to rule out any underlying conditions that may be affecting sleep quality. If snoring is not the cause of your child’s sleep issues, please give me a call to see how I can help your family get a restorative and restful night’s sleep!